Despite a crippling budget crisis — which has proven so divisive that
adjournment of the legislature was postponed in order to reach a
consensus on the 2011 budget — Illinois managed to pass a few
truly progressive pieces of legislation. But gains by low-wage workers,
nursing home residents, low-income communities, and renewable energy
producers were offset by atrocious pension reforms impacting teachers
and other state employees, as well as a state budget that hardly solves
A crime wave has been sweeping Illinois, with surveys of low-wage workers in the Chicago area showing an average of 146,300 cases of wage theft each week -- resulting in about $7.3 million each week in unpaid wages, or $380 million stolen from workers each year. In order to crack down on this criminal wage theft, the Illinois General Assembly on May 3 nearly unanimously (56-0 in the Senate and 112-1 in the House) passed SB 3568, which will strengthen the state’s ability to enforce violations of the Wage Payment and Collection Act.
The payday lending trap has been shorting working families to the tune
of nearly $5 billion
per year ever since the industry exploded onto the scene in the
1990’s. The number of payday lending institutions has jumped
exponentially from 500 in 1990 to about 22,000 today (compared
with 14,000 McDonald's), mainly targeting low-income African
American and Latino communities.
Refuting right-wing attacks on state workers, a new report
by the National Institute for Retirement Security (NIRS) and the
Council on State and Local Government Excellence (CSGE), Out
of Balance? Comparing Public and Private Sector Compensation Over 20
Years, demonstrates that state and local employees earn an average
of 11 and 12 percent less, respectively, than comparable private sector
April has seen two major industrial accidents that have captured the national eye. Explosions at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia and the Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the coast of Louisiana claimed the lives of forty workers and injured thirty-eight. Much of the media attention
on these tragedies has focused on the culpability of employers and enforcement capacity at federal agencies responsible for regulating mine and offshore
drilling safety. However, there are proactive steps states can take to address occupational safety hazards and ensure people do not have to sacrifice their personal safety in exchange for a paycheck.
Recent laws in Nebraska and Oklahoma highlight how a number of right-wing state leaders are attacking women's reproductive freedom. These bills range from replacing the viability standard established by the U.S. Supreme Court, to forcing women to watch an ultrasound as their doctors explain the status of the fetus, to precluding women from suing their doctors if the latter misinforms women of the well-being of their fetuses.